April 3, 2014
For the second time within 10 years, the College Board is changing the SAT. Some of its plans include making the essay portion of the test optional and removing the deduction of points for wrong answers. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the updated version of the SAT will require test takers to “think harder, analyze more and anchor their answers to evidence.”
The College Board justifies its decision to make the essay optional due to admissions offices’ mixed opinions of it. Even the College Board’s president, David Coleman, said that the essay of the writing section does not significantly contribute to the test’s validity. The writing sample will now add an additional 50 minutes to the already lengthy exam.
Currently, Hamilton College’s admissions office accepts both SAT and ACT scores, but it is unknown as to whether it will require or recommend the SAT’s essay section once it becomes optional in 2016.
Other changes to the future SAT will include more relevant vocabulary words, greater depth on fewer math topics and demands for citations from specific passages, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. While these are not huge alterations to the test, these changes demonstrate the College Board’s effort to compete with the ACT’s rising status as a popular standardized test.
Besides alterations made to the test itself, the SAT will also become more available to a wider range of students from lower to middle income families. Currently, the test costs $51, which would certainly discourage some aspiring college students from taking it as frequently as they might have hoped. The College Board will soon allow eligible test takers to directly receive four admission-fee waivers, instead of requiring test takers to request the waivers through their high school counselors. This reflects the growing number of students from these socioeconomic classes who plan on attending college.
What do these small (but many) changes mean for Hamilton College? As far as I can tell, not very much. The SAT’s alterations are significant but probably not enough to drastically change the entire admission process. Even though one of the largest changes is the decision to make the essay optional, it would make sense for a prospective student at one of the nation’s best colleges for writing to take a shot at the 50-minute essay anyway. And if test takers do not like the SAT’s new changes, they can always take a shot at the ACT.